Alan Mays

Alan Mays

Posted on 07/09/2018

Photo taken on July  9, 2018

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Decorated Car for the Floral-Flag Automobile Parade, Washington, D.C., July 5, 1909

Decorated Car for the Floral-Flag Automobile Parade, Washington, D.C., July 5, 1909
Handwritten note on the back of this real photo postcard: "This is as we looked Monday, July 5th, 1909, after the floral parade. Ed, Edith, Edward, Russell, Hattie, and Otto Zahn."

Hand-lettered card attached to the car: "29." Number above the doorway of the building in the background: "1004."

I didn't think I'd be able to uncover any information about a "floral parade" held in 1909. As it turned out, however, the Washington Post newspaper sponsored an Independence Day celebration in the form of a "Floral-Flag Automobile Parade" on July 5, 1909, that received widespread coverage.

The weekly Horticulture magazine on July 3, 1909, p. 8, for instance, expressed the hope that the event would sell more flowers during a hot summer: "Washington has been sweltering under the most torrid wave that has visited the city in years. Business is quite dull, commencements are over, and even Cupid is enervated by the heat. All the city is agog, though, over the forthcoming automobile and flower parade that will take place on the 5th of July. Autos will be decorated with flags and flowers. The Washington Post offers a first prize of $100 for the handsomest decorated auto. It is to be hoped that this flower parade, at least, will become an annual custom. It will be of inestimable value to the florists, as well as to the flower-loving public."

Henry Litchfield West, in an article about "A Safe and Sane Fourth of July" in The Forum, August 1909, p. 108, described some of the parade cars: "The Washington Post conceived the idea of an automobile floral-flag parade, and this event proved to be a genuine spectacular and artistic success. There were over a hundred motor cars in line, and the decorations were extremely novel and pleasing. One automobile was reconstructed into an accurate representation of the Confederate ram Merrimac, and was manned by young men in sailor costumes; another was converted into a yacht with masts and sails; another was a floral boat apparently drawn by an enormous white swan; and still another was in the form of a pergola, decorated with wistaria vines and blossoms. An electric machine which elicited the applause of the thousands who lined the route of parade was apparently a huge wicker basket of pink roses, in the centre of which and surmounted by a canopy of roses was seated the lady who operated the car. Another electric machine was a symphony in red, white and blue. Altogether the event proved to be a most unique and beautiful celebration…."

The decorations on this automobile weren't as elaborate (see a cropped version for a closer view), but it's remarkable that with a few details we can find information about a Floral-Flag Automobile Parade held over a century ago.

Decorated Car for the Floral-Flag Automobile Parade, Washington, D.C., July 5, 1909 (Cropped)

Deborah Lundbech, ╰☆☆June☆☆╮, Indycaver (Norm), Smiley Derleth have particularly liked this photo

6 comments - The latest ones
Indycaver (Norm)
Indycaver (Norm)
Cool find and photo!
11 months ago.
Alan Mays has replied to Indycaver (Norm)
Thanks, Norm!
11 months ago.
Your beautiful capture is greatly admired
Historical & Architectural Gems
11 months ago.
Alan Mays has replied to ╰☆☆June☆☆╮
Thanks, June!
10 months ago.
Deborah Lundbech
Deborah Lundbech
Remarkable that YOU can find it Alan! : )
Terrific story.
10 months ago.
Alan Mays has replied to Deborah Lundbech
Thanks, Deborah! But really anyone with a web browser and a little patience could have dug up the same info. I tried to figure out who the Zahns were--they may be related to a family of Zahns who ran a department store in the Midwest--but I didn't come up with anything definitive.

But wait a second! Literally as I was finishing up that last sentence, I did a final quick Google search and got a hit on a Flickr image of Edward Zahn and Sons--"Edward Zahn, founder of Zahn Dry Goods, with sons Edward and Russell." I think that may be the same family! Like I said, it's remarkable what we or me or you or anyone can find with a little searching!
10 months ago.